Johannesburg - The South African sports fraternity was left reeling on Thursday after the tragic deaths of three of its stars.
Athlete Zolani Ntongana, road cyclist Juan van Heerden and polo player Sibusiso Duma all lost their lives this week.
Born in Ngqamakwe in the Eastern Cape, Ntongana, 32, died in Cape Town after being hit by a motor vehicle while Van Heerden died tragically at his home in Gauteng. Duma died in a stabbing incident near Lidgetton, KwaZulu-Natal.
Ntongana finished third in the South African marathon championships in George earlier this year and represented South Africa at both the World half-marathon championships (2010) and the World Cross-Country Championships (2009).
The 25-year-old Phalaborwa-born Van Heerden was runner-up in the Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour in 2005 and ended 10th in the final stage of the world renowned Tour of Britain in 2008. A former winner of the Tour of Mauritius, he represented South Africa at numerous international events, including the Junior World Championships in 2004 as well as the Under-23 Cup of Nations in Europe, 2007.
Duma, 25, was South Africa's first development polo player to achieve success at international level and was due to play in England later this year, a step which would have furthered his career immensely.
"This is indeed a treble tragedy for the South African sports family," said Sascoc chief executive officer Tubby Reddy on Thursday.
"The loss of just one sportsman or woman is bad enough... to lose three of our athletes in the space of a few days is a body blow.
"Our thoughts and condolences go out to their families and loved ones and to the sporting codes they leave emptier by their absence."